فصل 08کتاب: خدایا اونجایی؟ منم، مارگارت / فصل 8
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8 On Friday morning when we walked into our room, there was a test paper on everyone’s desk. Every paper was marked and had the proper name on it. I got a ninety-eight. I felt great. Freddy Barnett didn’t feel great at all. He got a fifty-three! Mr. Benedict didn’t say anything about our names not being on the test papers. He just stood there and smiled. “Good morning, class,” he said without clearing his throat. I think he knew he’d won the battle.
Later that day Mr. Benedict reminded us of our individual projects again. He told us not to wait until the last minute and think we could whip something up then. He said by the end of next week we should all know our topic and start in on our notes.
I thought a lot about it, but I didn’t know anything meaningful that I was willing to share with Mr. Benedict. I mean, I couldn’t very well come up with a year-long study about bras and what goes in them. Or about my feelings toward Moose. Or about God. Or could I? I mean, not about God exactly-I could never tell Mr. Benedict that-but maybe about religion. If I could figure out which religion to be I’d know if I wanted to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center. That was meaningful, wasn’t it? I’d have to think about it.
Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. What would you think of me doing a project on religion? You wouldn’t mind, would you God? I’d tell you all about it. And I won’t make any decisions without asking you first. I think it’s time for me to decide what to be. I can’t go on being nothing forever, can I?
The following Saturday morning my mother drove me to the highway to get the New York bus. It was my first time going alone and my mother was nervous.
“Listen, Margaret-don’t sit next to any men. Either sit alone or pick out a nice lady. And try to sit up front. If the bus isn’t air-conditioned open your window. And when you get there ask a lady to show you the way downstairs. Grandma will meet you at the information desk.”
“I know, I know.” We’d been over it three dozen times but when the bus came my mother got out of the car and shouted to the bus driver.
“This little girl is traveling alone. Please keep an eye on her. It’s her first trip.”
“Don’t worry, lady,” the bus driver told my mother. Then my mother waved to me. I made a face at her and looked the other way.
I found grandma right where she was supposed to be. She gave me a big kiss. Grandma smelled delicious. She was wearing a green suit and had on lots of green eyeshadow to match. Her hair was silver blonde. Grandma’s hair color changes about once a month.
When we were out of the bus terminal Grandma said, “You look beautiful, Margaret. I love your hair.”
Grandma always has something nice to say to me. And my hair did look better. I read that if you brush it good it can grow up to an inch a month.
We went to lunch at a restaurant near Lincoln Center. During my chocolate parfait I whispered, “I’m wearing a bra. Can you tell?”
“Of course I can tell,” Grandma said.
“You can?” I was really surprised. I stopped eating. “Well, how do you think it makes me look?”
“Much older,” Grandma said, between sips of her coffee. I didn’t know whether to believe her or not so I believed her.
Then we went to the concert. I didn’t fidget like when I was a little kid. I sat very still and paid attention to the music. During intermission Grandma and I walked around outside. I love that fountain in the middle of Lincoln Center. I love it more than the concerts themselves. And I love to watch the people walk by. Once I saw a model having her picture taken by the fountain. It was freezing cold and she was wearing a summer dress. That’s when I decided not to be a model. Even if I did get beautiful some day.
In the cab, on the way back to the bus terminal, I thought about Grandma being Jewish. She was the perfect person to help me start my project. So I asked her, “Can I go to temple with you sometime?”
Grandma absolutely stared at me. I never knew anyone could open her eyes so wide.
“What are you saying? Are you saying you want to be Jewish?” She held her breath.
“No. I’m saying I’d like to go to temple and see what it’s all about.”
“My Margaret!” Grandma threw her arms around me. I think the cab driver thought we were crazy. “I knew you were a Jewish girl at heart! I always knew it!” Grandma took out a lace hanky and dabbed her eyes.
“I’m not, Grandma,” I insisted. “You know I’m not anything.”
“You can say it, but I’ll never believe it. Never!” She blew her nose. When she finished blowing she said, “I know what it is. You’ve made a lot of Jewish friends in Farbrook. Am I right?”
“No, Grandma. My friends have nothing to do with this.”
“Then what? I don’t understand.”
“I just want to see what it’s all about. So can I?” I certainly was not going to tell Grandma about Mr. Benedict.
Grandma sat back in her seat and beamed at me. “I’m thrilled! I’m going right home to call the rabbi. You’ll come with me on Rosh Hashanah.” Then she stopped smiling and asked. “Does your mother know?”
I shook my head.
I shook it again.
Grandma slapped her hand against her forehead. “Be sure to tell them it’s not my idea! Would I be in trouble!”
“Don’t worry, Grandma.”
“That’s ridiculous!” my mother said when I told her. “You know how Daddy and I feel about religion.”
“You said I could choose when I grow up!”
“But you’re not ready to choose yet, Margaret!”
“I just want to try it out,” I argued. “I’m going to try church too, so don’t get hysterical!”
“I am not hysterical! I just think it’s foolish for a girl of your age to bother herself with religion.”
“Can I go?” I asked.
“I’m not going to stop you,” my mother said.
“Fine. Then I’ll go.”
On Rosh Hashanah morning, while I was still in bed, I said,
Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I’m going to temple today-with Grandma. It’s a holiday. I guess you know that. Well, my father thinks it’s a mistake and my mother thinks the whole idea is crazy, but I’m going anyway. I’m sure this will help me decide what to be. I’ve never been inside a temple or a church. I’ll look for you God.
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